SALEM, N.H. -- The Boston Bruins will move to Rockingham Park next year if New Hampshire pledges massive financing help for a $50 million sports complex and greyhounds can run there, team owners announced Friday.
'If this project goes forward, the Bruins have made a commitment to be the major tenant,' said Paul Mooney, the president of the National Hockey League franchise.
Delaware North Co., owners of the Bruins and the Boston Garden, and the owners of Rockingham Park propose to reopen the horse race track, add greyhound racing and put up an 18,000-seat arena to house the Bruins, concerts and other entertainment events and possibly the Boston Celtics.
The track, located about 35 miles north of Boston, has been idle since the 75-year-old grandstand was destroyed in a fire on July 29.
'The word this morning, relative to our Rockingham Park plans, is go,' said Donald Carmichael, president of Delaware North, a sports conglomerate based in Buffalo, N.Y.,
But Carmichael said the plan hinges on state approval of a $125 million tax break for the facility over the next 25 years and the okay for greyhound racing at Rockingham by the town of Salem, which has turned down the dogs three times in the past.
Describing the Bruins' commitment to move as 'total and absolute' if the project is built, Mooney said there was nothing the city of Boston 'would and, in truth, can do' to stop them.
The project would be financed through the sale of $40 million in state-backed industrial revenue bonds, which must be authorized by the Legislature. The money from the tax breaks and the $5 million in revenue from greyhound racing would be used to pay off that loan.
Carmichael and track President Kenneth Graf said they believe all the conditions could be met without major problems.
'We have been in close touch with the people in Concord,' Graf said. 'I think I can assure you they feel comfortable with this approach.'
Gov. Hugh Gallen and top legislative leaders hailed the announcement, but took a more cautious view of the specific financial package, saying the proposal would take in-depth study.
According to the feasibility study, the sports complex and a proposed 250-room hotel on the 260-acre Rockingham Park grounds would inject about $50 million into the local and state economy each year and provide up to 2,000 new jobs.
The study, done by the Arlington, Mass., firm of Killingsworth, Liddy and Co., also indicated that 75 percent of the Bruins current season ticket holders live in areas with good to excellent accessibility to Salem.
Carmichael said he had talked with Boston Celtics owner Harry Mangurian about bringing the NBA franchise to Salem, but said the Celtics were not an 'essential' ingredient to the success of the project.
Once the conditions have been met and financing has been arranged, Carmichael said construction in Salem would begin immediately.
'Once Rockingham was in operation, the (Boston) Garden would no longer be in existence,' Carmichael added, noting that two developers had already approached him about potential redevelopment of the Garden's North Station site.